Imagine walking out on David Byrne — David Byrne, a man whose eventual demise (presuming we outlast him) should send us all into a mandatory year-long period of mourning. I reluctantly walked away as Byrne and his gloriously matchy-matchy band played “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” on Friday at ACL Fest, wandering to the far side of the park to catch Jungle, not knowing if I was making a terrible mistake.
While I’ve enjoyed British collective Jungle’s music since the ear-catching groove of “Platoon” made the rounds years ago, I had never seen them live, and for a reason: I was skeptical. I’ve been burned by too many indie scene dance acts that slay in the slick confines of the studio but incite snoozing live, and Jungle’s supremely chill jams — well-suited playlist fodder for people to head bop to as they aimlessly click away on keyboards — seemed the product of a band that was probably best enjoyed over headphones from the comfort of an ergonomic desk chair.
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Fortunately, as is often the case, my ignorance served to enhance my experience as I learned I was wrong and not only was Jungle quite an exceptional live band, but that splitting my afternoon between Byrne and Jungle would be one of those beautiful, unexpected pairings that only a massive music festival can bring.
Oddly enough, Jungle had a fair amount in common with Byrne (may he live forever) and his gang: a color-coordinated clan packing the stage and churning out full, dense, danceable fare with worldly flair. That crowded stage meant a big, big sound that elevated Jungle’s downtempo beats and hushed falsetto vocals into something that got the sweaty masses moving in the afternoon sun.
With just two albums under their collective belts, Jungle may yet to have the vast catalog of classics that Byrne has to pull from (and “The Heat” may never be “Burning Down the House”) but for short set on a sunny afternoon at ACL Fest 2018, Jungle held their own against a living legend.
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